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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Sonnet 89
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1560  Friday, 20 August 2004

From:           Dan Decker <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Aug 2004 09:39:32 EDT
Subject: 15.1547 Sonnet 89
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1547 Sonnet 89

 >The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, for example, dates ...

The continued use of a rose metaphor is not the core part of the
argument; an attack there leaves the central thesis, Lady Mary's
involvement with WS, untouched.

Consider this:

In sonnet 144, WS suspects that the fair youth, HW, might be trying to
bed WS' mistress, the dark lady. But, reasons WS, he will not know for
sure unless the dark lady gives HW syphilis (i.e. "fires him out").

144 tells us volumes about the relationship between WS and HW. First,
that WS would not warn HW that the woman has the pox suggests that they
were not good friends. The bigger deduction to make, however, is that
since WS and the dark lady were lovers, and according to the sonnet the
dark lady had syphilis and HW did not, therefore, WS and HW were not lovers.

WS' worst fears are realized when HW comes down with a case of the fatal
canker (syphilis), in sonnet 99, (with further discussion of this in
other sonnets). This is perhaps the most purely bitter and cynical
sonnet in the lot, and WS put the message into a 15-line sonnet so us
dopes would be sure to understand the significance.

However, if I can direct your attention to sonnets 34-36, WS is
delicately confronting the person who originally infected him with the
pox, clearly a social superior and not the dark lady. He uses the rose
metaphor here, too, in referring to that guilty party. Now, obviously,
HW did not infect WS with the pox, but someone else of the rose metaphor
did. There was only one other person of the same budding name and of the
same House of Roses, and that was Lady Mary.

We know for historical fact that Lady Mary had the pox, according to Sir
George Carey's PS in a letter to his wife in '94 regarding the Lady
Southamton's upcoming nuptials to Lord Heneage.

The historical evidence seems to agree with this interpretation. Now I'm
wondering what my Oxford Companion has to say about it.

Dan Decker

PS. Lady Mary filed 144 among the dark lady sonnets, and 99 into the HW
sonnets. She may not have been fully aware of the situation, or she may
have done it on purpose.

Also, in 34 WS confronts Lady Mary saying that if only she had warned
him he could have worn a "cloak" (i.e. condom), and in 35 he accepts his
responsibility for his infection. In 36 he writes of Lady Mary's
outrageous position that because people know he's infected, she cannot
be seen with him, lest it reflect badly upon her. Poor guy. For his
part, WS continued to love her, as only poets love.

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